So, I'm reading this blog, Grognardia, which can be found http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2009/01/ages-of-d.html
where the author is talking about what he regards as the Golden Age of RPG gaming.
To save you the hassle of reading it all, he puts the Golden Age as being between 1974 (the first marketing of D&D) and 1982 (the time where D&D pretty much went mainstream with major marketing pushes; the time it really began to become available at all mall bookstores, toy stores, and suchlike). He has a lot more to say; I recommend his article.
I would argue his point, though -- the idea that this time frame represented the greatest age of RPG gaming, and that the present is something of a "dark age."
I was there for a lot of his Golden Age. I first heard of D&D in 1977, only three years after its introduction. It was, at the time, largely an underground phenomenon, spread through game outlets and comic shops, which were themselves fairly new, rare, and far between. Being as I grew up in a tiny cow town in the middle of nowhere, Texas, if not for Rolling Stone, I would never have heard of D&D at all. But I did, and I got into it, and I enjoyed it immensely. But it had its drawbacks.
1. MINIATURES. Okay, miniatures back then sucked. Sure, there were some talented people working for Ral Partha, but the vast majority of Grenadier's, Dragontooth's, Martian Metals', and other companies' stuff was WAY lacking by today's standards. That, plus the fact that finding a place that carried these minis, and buying them, was a trick and a half. Remember what I said about little cow towns. Every mini I owned in the first few years of gaming, I ordered from the Dungeon in Lake Geneva, sight unseen, from their badly mimeographed catalogs. Only after this Golden Age was nearly gone was I able to jump in my car and drive half the length of Texas and seek out hobby shops on my own... and even then, the selection was hella limited. NOBODY carried them all. Unless you could get to Nan's Toys in Houston, or King's Hobbies in Austin, or the Dungeon in San Antonio, or whatever that place was called up in the DFW Metroplex, you were pretty much out of luck.
2. PRODUCT. There wasn't a lot of product available back then. This has been called both good and bad... but, you know, the way I learned to Dungeon Master was by reading all the "Against The Giants" modules, when they first came out, one at a time. Man, you need examples to work from! RPGs aren't something you can pick up by reading!
3. INFORMATION. What I knew about D&D, I learned from reading the products. Later, I subscribed to Dragon magazine, which taught me a lot about the hobby. WAS no intertubes back then, friends! Dragon, Starlog, and Starlog Publishing's spinoff, Fantasy Modeling were my lifeline to geek culture back then...
I could go on in this vein, but I think I've hammered the point down pretty well. Nowadays, I can literally buy decent miniatures at WAL-MART, of all places... and if I want to order some from somewhere, I can see exactly what I want for a competitive price on the Internet, the same internet I connect with zillions of other geeks daily. I can compare notes. I can read other gamers' blogs. I can talk to them, and listen to them. I can find inspirational art, I can find out how to paint miniatures (as opposed to having to literally invent the process myself over a period of years), I can have it all at my fingertips.
This is a golden age, it really is. True, my kind of gaming has a serious competition with everything else screaming for everyone's attention -- there are more than five TV channels now, the internet offers many other kinds of entertainment, and even for those who are into RPGs, why not just sign up for World of Warcraft?
But for those of us who choose this road, our options are more unlimited than ever. NOW is the golden age, folks. Let's carpe some diem.